Politics & Policy

Cecile Richards Makes the Case for Defunding Planned Parenthood

Cecile Richards with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show (via YouTube)
Her answers on The Daily Show only confirm criticism of the abortion group.

As Planned Parenthood faces a renewed defunding effort from the Republican Congress, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah interviewed the group’s president, Cecile Richards, to discuss the organization’s future . . . but it turned out not to be much of an interview at all. Instead, between bursts of deafening applause — “You need fans in these dark times,” Noah explained — the comedian lobbed leading questions at Richards, giving her chance after chance to defend the abortion group, and he often stepped in to bolster her case himself.

This “interview” of sorts is an excellent example of how progressives are able to control the cultural dialogue so easily: Celebrities, comedians, and much of the news media are only too willing to provide ostensibly unbiased cover for the institutions and issues that liberals care about. Democratic activists and politicians are treated with kid gloves on shows watched by millions of Americans, in this case allowing Richards to wield carefully worded messaging to persuade viewers to trust a group as crooked as Planned Parenthood, although most of her points were incorrect or deceptive and can easily be debunked with some basic facts.

Richards claimed that if Planned Parenthood lost its government funding, millions of American women would have nowhere else to go for health care. That falsehood is tangled up with another common tall tale: that Planned Parenthood provides very few abortions and largely focuses on a vast array of other, necessary services.

“We’re really proud at Planned Parenthood to provide women all their reproductive health care, and we always will,” Richards said. And later, “This is an issue of access to health care, of a wide swath of health care. And for many folks, we’re their only health care. Paul Ryan is saying, ‘We’re going to end that.’”

This is Planned Parenthood’s most common rhetorical strategy, and it’s easy to see why it’s so effective. In reality, though, Planned Parenthood’s claim to provide numerous types of essential health care is highly misleading, and much of the care women receive at its clinics could easily be obtained elsewhere. For one thing, the group’s infamous assertion that abortion is a mere 3 percent of the services it provides has been debunked by left-leaning outlets such as Slate and the Washington Post, and the deception underlying that statistic was explained in depth by Rich Lowry in Politico in 2015.

An accurate assessment of the group’s abortion numbers reveals that one in eight women who visits a Planned Parenthood clinic obtains an abortion. To obscure that fact, Planned Parenthood consistently overstates its other, supposedly crucial services, falsely claiming to provide mammograms and exaggerating its commitment to prenatal care. In fact, the group provides less than 1 percent of the nation’s pap tests and less than 2 percent of its breast exams and cancer screenings, while at the same time providing over 30 percent of its abortions.

Although thousands of federally qualified health-care centers (FQHCs) across the country are able to provide women with numerous necessary services — many of them more essential than those offered by Planned Parenthood — Richards maintained that FQHCs can’t handle the volume of patients currently served by Planned Parenthood and that women therefore will still lose health-care access if the organization is defunded. This is difficult to believe, given the 13,540 FQHCs and rural health-care clinics across the country, whereas Planned Parenthood operates a mere 665 facilities. (See this excellent map to understand how drastically community clinics outnumber Planned Parenthoods, by a ratio of 20 to one.)

Planned Parenthood executives contend that low-income women in rural areas in particular will be harmed if the abortion group is defunded. But take, for example, the rural state of Nebraska, which has a total of two Planned Parenthood clinics and 167 FQHCs. How could it be possible that two Planned Parenthood clinics serve so many women that 167 healthcare centers would be overwhelmed by an overflow of patients? Meanwhile, even in California, the state with the most Planned Parenthood clinics by far, the abortion group has a mere 114 centers compared with 1,694 community health clinics.

If anyone is making a political game out of women’s care, it is Planned Parenthood, which demands that the government subsidize health care that the group has bundled together with abortion.

In addition, Richards asserted that the Republican party doesn’t care about women and that in trying to remove government funding from Planned Parenthood Republicans are playing partisan politics with women’s health care. But if anyone is making a political game out of women’s care, it is Planned Parenthood and its Democratic allies, who demand that the government subsidize health care that the group has bundled together with highly controversial — not to mention immoral — abortion procedures.

If Planned Parenthood stopped performing abortions, few in either party would object to funding the organization; Republicans at every level support reimbursing FQHCs to provide necessary care that does not include abortions. If the group sees itself as invaluable to American women, it should cease providing abortions and focus all of its resources on truly essential health care. But it will never do that, because it is first and foremost an abortion corporation. That is where the bulk of its profit comes from.

Finally, Richards repeatedly claimed that the American people love Planned Parenthood and don’t want it to be defunded, bragging about the outpouring of support the group has seen since the election. Perhaps she missed the latest poll on the defunding effort, which shows that voters in 2018 Senate battleground states — Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin — support ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood, 56 to 40 percent; 28 percent strongly support federal funding for Planned Parenthood, while 47 percent strongly oppose it. Even more interesting, the poll found that, by a margin of over 30 percentage points, Americans in these battleground states would be less likely to vote for any senator who voted to give federal money to Planned Parenthood rather than to local community health centers; 44 percent considered themselves “much less likely” to do so.

Much of that distaste with Planned Parenthood surely comes from its status as the country’s largest abortion organization, especially as the popularity of abortion has declined dramatically over time; a November poll found that just under two-thirds of Americans support legislation prohibiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, including almost 80 percent of Millennials. Meanwhile, a Marist poll from last summer shows that 62 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 45 percent of pro-choice Americans and 44 percent of Democrats. And though the Hyde amendment technically prohibits taxpayer money from being used for abortion, the fungibility of money is such that the $500 million in government funding to Planned Parenthood functions as a cushion on top of which it can continue to conduct its bloody business. (In a shocking display of honesty, Richards said it’s “wrong” that federal money cannot be used to pay for abortions directly — which, thanks to the Hyde amendment, it cannot.)

If this interview was Richards’s best attempt at being honest with the American people about Planned Parenthood and its work, it’s no wonder that so many people agree with Congress: It’s time for the group to be defunded.

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